Key stakeholders meet to discuss GBV issues in Armenia

IMG_0687 copyNEF UK and GCCI gather key stakeholders to discuss the important role they play in protecting against gender-based violence and advancing gender equality and the rights of survivors of gender-based violence in Armenia

NEF UK and the Gegharkunik Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) organized a special event that included a presentation and exhibition on Advancing Gender Equality and the Rights of Survivors of Gender-Based Violence in Armenia, a project financed by the European Union and implemented by NEF UK and GCCI.

The event, held on January 18 2017 at the Double Tree Hilton Hotel in Yerevan from 14:00 to 18:00, provided an opportunity to explore the role of Armenian civil society organizations, private sector organizations, and government agencies in promoting women’s rights and gender equality among vulnerable groups of women through the delivery of economic development programs.

Ms. Line Urban, a representative from the European Union (EU) delegation to Armenia, gave opening remarks at the event where she emphasized the important role the program has played in advocating for gender equality in Armenia. NEF UK and GCCI highlighted the impact of the EU-supported project and showcased an exhibition of project beneficiary business products and services. Attendees were also able to hear directly from beneficiaries who shared the successes they have achieved through the project.

The event helped attendees to identify the primary causes of gender-based violence in Armenia, what role they can play in the prevention of gender-based violence, and how their organizations can help support the economic stability of survivors in the future. The key findings of the three working groups (government agencies, civil society organizations, and victims of gender-based violence) were shared and discussed among participants at the end of the event.

The project is being implemented in Yerevan, Syunik, and Lori regions in partnership with the Women’s Support Centre, Women’s Resource Centre, Goris Women’s Development Resource Centre Foundation, and Spitak Helsinki Group.

Since its launch in January 2015, the two-year project has helped 230 survivors of gender-based violence gain increased employability, small business skills, and establish small businesses. Seventy women received vocational training in various specializations, 130 received financial support to start their small businesses, 80 developed career development plans, and 50 women found employment in the labour market.

The project has helped build a commitment toward preventing gender-based violence and promoting gender equality among community leaders and employers. The partner community organizations have strengthened their cooperation and signed agreements with regional agencies in Armenia, aiming to create referral mechanisms for victims of gender-based violence.

Although the project ends on January 20 2017, NEF UK and its partners hope to find opportunities to continue this work, as it is highly impactful and required. Project’s learning, lessons and recommendations will be presented at an event in Yerevan in March 2017.

Marine’s story: How I made a profession out of my passion.

MarineMy name is Marine*.  I am 41-year-old and a mother of seven. Six years ago, my husband and I divorced due to psychological and physical abuse that I endured for many years. As a recently divorced, vulnerable, unemployed single-mother, I was unable to provide for my family. The years of abuse made me very weak, scared, and overwhelmed. I lost my house, my children left, and my way of life as I knew it disappeared.

One year ago, I came across the AGERS (Advancing Gender Equality and the Rights of Survivors) program through the Spitak Helsinki Group NGO—an opportunity that marked a turning point in my life.

Prior to joining the program I didn’t have a profession, but had always enjoyed making handicrafts, baking, and above all being a good mother to my children. I knew that to get my children back, and to be the mother they needed, I would have to get a steady job.

With that aim in mind, I attended both the business development and job development courses that the program offered, along with one month of vocational training, which helped me improve my baking skills.

The courses equipped me with the confidence and skills I needed to turn my passion for baking into a profession. I soon was able to develop a business plan and present it to the project committee. I was shocked that my business plan was chosen and selected for funding, and more so, that I was qualified to start and run a small business!

It has now been seven months since I started to market and sell my homemade baked goods in the Lori region. When I first started, I was baking cakes for neighbors and providing samples for tasting in an effort to increase my customer base. Once they started to gain popularity, I decided to deliver my baked goods to the local store to be sold—they sold out in one hour! Because of how popular my goods were becoming in the community, I was hired as a saleswoman in a local bakery. There I sell my own pastry and meat products, and plan to start producing lavash (Armenian bread).

I now earn enough of an income to support my children and myself. Getting back on my feet has helped me to rebuild a relationship with my children—all seven of them are again living with me. Some of my children, who are now in college, are even willing to help me improve my business based on what they are learning in their courses.

Today, instead of dwelling on the difficulties I have experienced in my life, I focus on the successes I have achieved. One day, I would like to open my own shop. My life has been changed dramatically since I participated in the project, and I plan to pay it forward by helping other women.

The AGERS project is finance by the European Union and implemented by the NEF UK and the Gegharkunik Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Since its launch in January 2015, the two-year project has helped 230 survivors of gender-based violence gain increased employability, small business skills, and establish small businesses. Seventy women received vocational training in various specializations, 130 received financial support to start their small businesses, 80 developed career development plans, and 50 women found employment in the labor market.   

“The project has improved confidence and self-reliance among survivors of gender-based violence, providing women with safe options when making decisions that affect their family’s lives,” Arpine Baghdoyan, NEF’s country director in Armenia, explained.

Although the project ended on January 20 2017, NEF and its partners hope to find opportunities to continue this important and necessary work in the region.

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the women.


Anna: From Baker to Bistro Owner









Anna*, a survivor of gender-based violence, recently registered her business—a bistro—in Armenia’s capital city, Yerevan.

Prior to joining the NEF’s Advancing Gender Equality and the Rights of Survivors of Gender-Based Violence in Armenia (AGERS) project—financed by the European Union and implemented by NEF UK and GCCI—Anna worked as a talented baker at a local establishment for many years. Each day, she did her best to earn money for her boss, ensuring only the best, handmade products made it onto the bakery’s shelves. Though she enjoyed her work, the low salary and long hours she worked at the bakery made her question whether she would do better to start her own business. Anna toyed with the idea for more than three years, but without start-up capital the likelihood that she could try and succeed at launching her own business seemed dim.

Anna learned about the AGERS project in June 2015, and was selected to participate in enterprise-track trainings one month later. Over the course of the two-week class, she gradually came to realize that she could achieve her dream of opening a bistro with the support of NEF UK and Gegharkunik Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI).

Through the project, Anna learned that her business model was high risk, and to be successful she would need to anticipate common challenges faced by restaurants and plan ahead to avoid them or minimise their impact. The project team helped Anna to register her business, conduct risk assessments, negotiate a rental space, and understand tax law. She used the small grant she was awarded through the project to stock her restaurant with tools and ingredients.

To limit costs, Anna recruited her son Vardan* to contribute to the management of the bistro. Vardan had always struggled with health issues, but continued to work odd labor-intensive jobs to care for the family out of necessity. For Vardan, the bistro presented a welcome alternative to his then-physically-demanding line of work. Working together, Anna could focus on production while Vardan focused on advertising, sourcing fresh produce, and managing delivery logistics.

Two months after receiving her grant, Anna earned enough of a profit to cover the restaurant’s costs. With business on the rise, her self-confidence continues to increase by leaps and bounds. 

“My business is slowly growing” Anna says, “it is my own business. I alone am responsible for both profits and losses. I am happy to have my son’s support. Thanks to the project, I gained the know-how, equipment, and materials to overcome my fear of failure and become an entrepreneur.”

Since its launch in January 2015, the two-year project has helped 230 survivors of gender-based violence gain increased employability, small business skills, and establish small businesses. Seventy women received vocational training in various specializations, 130 received financial support to start their small businesses, 80 developed career development plans, and 50 women found employment in the labor market.


*Names have been changed to protect the beneficiary’s identity.


Survivors of Gender-Based Violence Overcome the Odds

Women in Armenia gather to bring awareness to gender-based violence (picture credit to the Global Fund for Women).

In Armenia, 69 percent of women report being physically assaulted by an intimate partner—often in front of their children—at least once in their lives. With conservative gendered norms embedded in the culture at home and in the community, women’s role in the economy is severely restricted—posing barriers to social and economic change for women in Armenia. To address this systemic issue, women’s fundamental human rights need to be better protected and advocated for.

The Near East Foundation (NEF) implemented an initiative, in partnership with the Gegharkunik Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) and funded by the European Union, to help 200 survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) enhance their employability and small business skills. The Advancing Gender Equality and the Rights of Survivors of Gender-based Violence (AGERS) project provides vocational training and business and financial support so that these women can become economically independent and meet their needs with dignity.

This initiative, only half way through its cycle, has already seen tremendous success as 90 percent of GBV survivors who have participated in the program have reported improved self-reliance and economic independence.

Nune, a young woman who was emotionally and physically abused by her family for many years, tolerated this violence as a means to protect her family as she was financially dependent on her husband. Searching for a safe way out, she sought help from a local community organization—the Women’s Resource Center (WRC) in Yerevan.

In addition to directly helping women through this program, NEF is also working with local community organizations, like the WRC, who already work with GBV survivors. NEF helps these organizations improve their capacity to deliver effective economic development programs that are supportive of gender equality, protective against GBV, and help to better engage the public, and civil society as a whole in joint action, dialogue, and training around normal, safe workplaces, and protection strategies.

Nune sat down with WRC to discuss her situation and aspirations, which included finding a way to utilize her sewing skills, and they recommended that she enroll in NEF’s AGERS’s business development stream. The trainings helped her to build self-confidence and learn how to develop a profitable business plan for a tailoring business. Impressed by her ambition and comprehensive plan, the project team awarded Nune a grant so that she could purchase a sewing machine and other materials she needed to start and run her business.

Now separated from her husband, Nune lives with her parents. She makes women’s clothes and sells them from home and in different stores in Yerevan. With the success her business has seen, Nune now makes enough of a profit to take care of herself and her family. To continue to grow her business, Nune is negotiating contracts with other stores in Yerevan and other nearby cities in Armenia.

Another woman, Hasmik, had a small child so took a big risk leaving her husband after enduring an abusive relationship. Without a means to support her child, Hasmik moved in with her parents and immediately contacted the WRC for help, who then referred her to NEF’s program.

Through attending NEF’s trainings, Hasmik became more confident in herself, her abilities, and her potential to succeed independently. With the support of an employability trainer Hasmik developed a CV, a career development plan, and learned how to interview for jobs. The project also helped her prepare for job screening and apply to a number of jobs relevant to her skill-set and background. After circulating her resume to employers in Yerevan and the other regions, Hasmik was soon offered a job in a food factory as a quality manager where she is now able to make enough to cover her rent and provide for her family without depending on anyone else.

The AGERS program has so far helped 98 women develop comprehensive business plans and 91 women develop career plans and CVs. Thirty-three women have received certificates for successful completion of accredited vocational training curricula, and 80 women have received small grants to cover start-up and vocational training expenses.

Women’s entrepreneurship is the theme for this short film about NEF’s project helping victims of gender-based violence to gain entrepreneurship skills.

A Women’s Story of Determination and Success in Armenia

Women's entrepreneurship is the theme for this short film about NEF UK's project helping victims of gender-based violence to gain entrepreneurship skills.
Click video above to watch: Women’s entrepreneurship is the theme for this short film about NEF UK’s project helping victims of gender-based violence to gain entrepreneurship skills. NEF UK’s program was internationally recognized by the European Training Foundation (ETF) with a certificate of excellence for demonstrating good practice in implementing trainings for women’s entrepreneurship.

Like many of the other women, Toma[1] spoke candidly about the events that led her to enroll in NEF UK’s Advancing Gender Equality and the Rights of Survivors of Gender-Based Violence (AGERS-GBV) program. “My life has been hard,” she recalls. “I suffered for a long time.”

Toma, a 40-year-old single mother to a young boy, endured abuse from her husband for more than a decade before escaping and seeking refuge in her parents’ home with her son.

Domestic violence against women is commonplace in Armenia, where 59 percent of women report being subjected to physical, psychological, or sexual violence at the hands of their domestic partners. It is only fairly recently that this widespread issue has entered public discourse as a real and growing problem.

To make matters more difficult, women are not encouraged to work independently and earn an income. Ruzanna Torozyan, director of the Goris Women’s Development Resource Center in Armenia, said, “Men are usually not comfortable with their wives entering the workforce due to social norms that discourage female independence. As a result, the social burden of raising a family falls mostly to women—many of whom struggle to meet household expenses independently from male support.”

Without a job and income to support her son, Toma sought psychological and legal support from the Women’s Support Center (WSC) in Yerevan on the advice of a friend. There, Toma heard about NEF UK’s European Union-funded AGERS-GBV program, which equips survivors with the knowledge, skills, and support structures they need to start their own small businesses or find sustained employment.

“I knew self-employment was better suited to my situation, but I didn’t know how to make it a reality,” Toma explained.

Toma saw NEF UK’s program as an opportunity to become self-reliant, and applied to enroll in the business development component. Through the trainings, she was taught the skills needed to plan, organize, and manage a small business.

“For years, I considered opening up my own shoe business, but the project helped me to transform my idea into action. The other women in the program’s and I welcomed the opportunity to work with the enterprise development team, and appreciated their inclusive and interactive approach to training.”

Working with the program’s business development trainer, Toma developed a viable business plan and finance strategy that was approved by a selection committee. With a project-supported grant secured, Toma purchased materials for 40 shoes, which she quickly transformed into 16 pairs of women’s shoes just in time for the Armenian winter. Toma plans to use her remaining materials to get a head start on a spring line of shoes.

“I love my job. It provides me with the flexibility I need to make an economically sustainable living for my son and me. I feel at peace, and I am highly motivated to move ahead with my plans for the future—whatever I decide those will be.’’

NEF UK’s program was internationally recognized by the European Training Foundation (ETF) with a certificate of excellence for demonstrating good practice in implementing trainings for women’s entrepreneurship. ETF created a video to highlight the program’s success in developing economic opportunities for survivors of gender-based and domestic violence. Click here to watch.

To date, 161 women survivors across Yerevan and Lori and Syunik regions have signed up to participate in the business development stream and 131 of those women have developed business plans. Fifty-one women have already received funding to support their small businesses and the remaining 80 women will receive funding in the near future. Additionally, 116 women have enrolled in the employment development trainings where they are learning valuable skills needed to meet employer qualifications.

NEF-UK’s AGERS-GBV project is funded by the European Union and implemented in partnership with Gegharkunik Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI).

[1] Some names have been changed in this publication to protect the privacy and security of the individuals involved.


The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative and Near East Foundation Gratitude Scholarship Program

Valued at nearly $7 million, the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative and Near East Foundation Gratitude Scholarship Program will provide 100 academic scholarships, over the next 8 years, to at-risk youth from the Arab Middle East who have been affected by conflict, displacement, and poverty. The scholarships will provide selected youth the opportunity to receive an international level education at the United World College (UWC) network of schools around the world, including in Armenia-based UWC Dilijan—an international co-educational boarding school currently hosting students from over 60 countries.

The application process for 2016 enrollment is currently closed. The application process for the academic year commencing in September 2017 will open between September and October of 2016 and will continue into mid February of 2017. The applicants from the following countries will be eligible to receive the scholarships for the current academic year: Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, Jordan, and Egypt.  NEF is encouraging youth who meet the established criteria to pursue the application process for the scholarship in the participating countries in which they work beginning in the Fall of 2016.

Eligibility criteria includes the following:

•  16-17 years old by September 1, 2016
•  High Academic Performance
•  Proficient English
•  Identifies with at least one of the following:
          · Is a refugee or displaced person
          · Has endured the loss of one or more caretakers
          · Has or is living in extreme poverty

As its name indicates, the Gratitude Scholarship program was developed jointly by the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative and NEF to express gratitude on behalf of the global Armenian community to the people of the Middle East who offered shelter and food to those displaced by the Armenian Genocide over a century ago.

Just like 100 years ago, children are the most vulnerable victims of present-day turmoil in the Middle East. The majority of children displaced by war and poverty have no access to education. UNICEF estimates that there are more than two million out-of-school children in Syria, in addition to 700,000 Syrian refugee children in neighboring countries. 


“We are proud to be able to help parents experiencing great hardship and uncertainty to secure a better future for their children, as our parents and grandparents were able to do for us,” says Ruben Vardanyan, co-founder of 100 LIVES. “It is with great pride that we announce our partnership with the Near East Foundation, and with eager anticipation that we look to identify the scholarship recipients.” 
NEF President, Dr. Charles Benjamin shares Mr. Vardanyan’s enthusiasm, saying at NEF’s October Centennial Gala that, “The Near East Foundation is proud to celebrate its centennial anniversary by enabling a hundred driven and in-need students to receive a world-class education. We are excited to join 100 Lives in rewarding talented students and future leaders with the opportunity to excel and succeed.”

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The program will be administered through the Scholae Mundi Foundation, which aims to provide students with opportunities to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to contribute to the international community and catalyze social change. 

About 100 LIVES
The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative is committed to building a broad, global humanitarian movement. The initiative is rooted in inspiring stories of courage and survival that emerged during the Armenian Genocide, when 1.5 million Armenians perished. Those fortunate few who survived were saved by the courageous and heroic acts of institutions and individuals who intervened, at great risk. A century later, the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative seeks to express gratitude, share remarkable stories of survivors and their saviors, and celebrate the strength of the human spirit. 

About UWC Movement
UWC makes education a force to unite peoples, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future. To achieve, this UWC deliberately selects students of different ethnicities, religions, nationalities and socio-economic backgrounds. Selection for UWC is based on merit by selection committees in more than 150 countries. This unique and challenging education model places a high value on experiential learning, to prepare students for future roles in community leadership. Founded in 1962, UWC now has 15 schools and colleges on five continents, the majority of these are two-year residential colleges following the International Baccalaureate Diploma, a qualification UWC played a major part in developing. Currently, 75% of UWC students receive either full or partial financial assistance. UWC also has a network of short courses, often held in regions of political, economic, ethnic or environmental tension on themes such as conflict management or environmental awareness. The UWC movement aims to inspire a lifelong commitment to social responsibility and to creating a global fellowship for international understanding among its alumni, now numbering more than 50,000. 

For more information contact the UWC National Committees for each of the participating countries:


Palestine Refugees In Lebanon





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NEF UK Launches Women’s Economic Development Programs in Armenia

Knitting machine

Yerevan—In January 2015, the Near East Foundation UK (NEF UK) and the Gegharkunik Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (CGGI) launched a project—financed by the European Union—to advance gender equality and the rights of survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) in Armenia. Now, in only the tenth month of the project, there is an opportunity to share some of its successes.

Last month, NEF UK, GCCI, and their partner and beneficiary civil society organizations (CSOs) set up and furnished four safe spaces in the Yerevan, Lori, and Syunik regions in Armenia to welcome women for meetings, workshops, networking opportunities, and business development trainings. Over ninety women survivors participated in these trainings and workshops aimed at improving economic agency, equality, and economic independence for women survivors of GBV.

About two thirds of the participants have chosen an enterprise development stream, while the rest have chosen an employment development stream. At the workshops, a selection committee was set up to assess business plans presented by enterprise development program participants and to determine which plans were at an appropriate stage to receive funding. Of the fifty women, twenty-five in the Yerevan group were selected to receive funding for their microbusinesses.

“I had no hope that I could receive funding for my small business that I was dreaming about for many years. My family never supported me to earn money, now I have proved that I am able to do something.’’ said one of the participants in the training who recently received funds to purchase a modern knitting machine to make clothes. She already has made arrangements with nearby fashion centers to sell the clothes she is making.

The business ideas presented to the committee were diverse and spanned from traditional business ideas, such as baking, hairdressing, nail art, and cosmetology to less traditional ambitions like shoe production, pottery, and opening and running a bistro.

Another woman who is improving her cosmetology skills also received a grant, and afterward said: “My trainings are going very well. This profession is perfect for me, I like it so much! I have purchased all the necessary items through the grant and I am looking forward to starting my small business now. Thank you very much, this is the start of my future career and success which was made possible with your support.”

In addition to those who have developed plans for their micro-businesses, a second group of participants are supported with trainings to improve their CVs and employment status so that they can earn an income to increase their economic independence. Since the project launched in January, thirty-three women from the Lori region and Yerevan have attended job skills development training sessions and were presented with job opportunities available for them to pursue.

After receiving vocational training in hairdressing, one of the women plans to start a home based business. She told us: “First of all, you made a change in my family’s outlook in that women are not created only for sitting at home, but also for working and earning. My husband never allowed me to work. Now, when I receive vocational training and have plans to start my small hairdressing business at home, my husband has become more interested in what I am learning and my success. Thank you very much not only for the grant and for funding my vocational training, but most of all for making a positive change in my family’s life.”

Since July, six participants of the job component have found and sustained jobs, which include the following sectors: accounting, cleaning, baking, gardening, health care, and secretarial work. Seven women have made arrangements with potential employers to get jobs after receiving vocational training, and three of the employers have promised to promote women to positions with more responsibility after they attend the vocational training sessions.

The job skills development training sessions have improved participant’s communication and negotiation skills, as well as increased their self-confidence and capacity for self-reliance. One of the workshop’s trainers said that they have seen an ‘’increase in the project participants’ self-confidence during a very short time. We see positive changes in their behavior every day.’’

Along with helping survivors of GBV, the project aims to strengthen CSOs’ internal capacities and technical skills in protection strategies linked to economic empowerment activities for survivors of GBV. Since the project launched, seventy people from a number of state and non-state agencies have participated in round tables conducted in Goris, Spitak, and Yerevan. The purpose of the round tables was to increase the ability of the community and state agencies to facilitate inclusive civil society and community dialogue, private-public-civil-society collaborative activities, and learning and awareness initiatives linked to GBV prevention and gender equality. Ten more round tables are planned for January 2016.

Despite being in its early stages, the project has already seen tremendous success in the communities in which it works. The project team and beneficiaries are looking forward to the next phases and future achievements with the hope that a positive and lasting impact will be made for gender equality and prevention of GBV in Armenia.

This project is funded by the European Union and implemented by the Near East Foundation UK in partner with the Gegharkunik Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Read more about our work in Armenia.

NEF Helps Advance Gender Equality in Armenia

NEF Armenia Country Director Arpine Baghdoyan address a crowd of partners for an upcoming project to address survivors of Gender-Based Violence in Armenia.

YEREVAN, Armenia – This past June, organizers met to discuss a project to deliver economic development programs to support gender equality and protect women against gender-based violence being launched by the European Union (EU), our own Near East Foundation UK (NEF-UK), and the Gegharkunik Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI). The project, 95 percent funded by the EU under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) will be implemented in Yerevan, Syunik Province, and the Lori Province to improve protection, gender equality, agency, and economic independence for women survivors of gender-based violence.

Over a two-year period, the project will help 200 gender-based violence survivors gain increased employability, small business skills, and safe access to economic opportunities. Sixty women will be offered tailored vocational training with accredited certificates, 120 will receive targeted business and financial support to start their own micro-businesses, and 80 will be offered tailored employment development support. The project aims to increase confidence and self-reliance amongst survivors, so that women can make choices and shape the choices that affect their lives.

The project works with four civil society organisations to engage the public, support groups, employers, and other civil society and market actors across many sectors in joint actions, dialogue, and training around norms, safe workspaces, and protection strategies linked to economic opportunities. The project will build commitment to preventing gender-based violence and promoting gender equality among community leaders and employers.

GCCI—a Gavar-based chamber of commerce that aims to promote sustainable local economic development through market assessment, business development, and micro-credit – and NEF UK started the project on 21 January 2015. The project is due to be completed by 20 January 2017.

Near East Relief Historical Society Launches Archival Museum

Jackie Coogan NER campaign_105

TARRYTOWN, New York – The Near East Foundation (NEF) and the Near East Relief Historical Society (NERHS) are happy to announce the launch of our much-anticipated Near East Relief Digital Museum.

At the end of 2014, we launched a successful Kickstarter to drive our fundraising campaign. The museum was funded in full by January of 2015 and construction began in earnest that same month. We are happy to announce the site is now fully operational and can be visited at

The museum will grow to include additional items from our own collection as they are preserved and digitized; we will also solicit relevant digital documents from affiliate institutions. NERHS will memorialize each of the more than 1,000 relief workers and the Near East Relief leadership. This campaign will allow us to hire a talented web designer to build a beautiful interactive website.

The online museum is meant to be a resource for scholars, students, and anyone with an interest in this critical period in world history. It will serve as a repository for academic essays, articles, and teaching materials related to the Near East Relief. It will also create a vital community for the descendants of Near East Relief beneficiaries and volunteers, who will finally have a forum to share their memories and stories.

NEF box 144 Meal time

The Near East Relief Digital Museum bears witness to the Armenian Genocide while celebrating the brave men and women of Near East Relief, a philanthropic organization that saved a generation and changed the face of humanitarianism.

NEF’s Legacy In Armenia


Originally known as the Near East Relief, the Near East Foundation (NEF) launched in response to the 1915 Genocide during the World War I era, when NEF’s founders established what began as a small-scale relief operation soliciting donations from the American public to alleviate the suffering of the Armenian people. As the first broad national appeal of its kind, it was unprecedented in its use of media outlets and support from celebrity spokespeople and citizen volunteers alike. The results were extraordinary: between 1915 and 1930, NEF raised $117 million (equivalent to $1.25 billion today) to help primarily Armenian refugees. Nearly 1,000 men and women served overseas and thousands more volunteered throughout the United States. NEF built hundreds of orphanages, vocational schools, and food distributions centers, and saved the lives of over one million refugees, including 132,000 orphans.

NEF was the only foreign agency allowed to operate in the Caucasus—even after the Sovietization of the region—until it was expelled in 1929. When NEF was permitted to re-enter Armenia in 2004, activities focused on improving conditions and increasing opportunities for street children. Working with the Canada-based NGO Street Kids International, NEF co-sponsored workshops to build capabilities among street children to communicate about issues vital to their well-being—such as drugs, sex, and HIV/AIDS—and to help apply their many skills—such as “street smarts,” ambition, responsibility, and entrepreneurship—into opportunities to improve their lives. Today, NEF helps survivors of domestic violence across the country achieve economic independence through employment and micro enterprise development.

Recognition of Service

Through the years, numerous organizations have recognized NEF’s legacy of service to Armenia. The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) bestowed the Freedom Award, their highest honor, to NEF in 2004 for “longstanding history of aiding the Armenian people and others in their darkest hours.” In 2005, NEF was recognized by The Armenian Assembly of America, The Armenian General Benevolent Union, and the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America at their “International Relief, Refuge, and Recognition” event, where NEF’s president gave the keynote address. The same year, NEF’s president also delivered the keynote at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. for the Congressional Armenian Genocide Commemoration. In 2010, the Armenian Relief Society presented their “Ararat” Award of Excellence to NEF, “whose caring heart and charitable hand, extended at a critical time, helped the survival of 130,000 tragedy-struck Armenian children.” In 2014, NEF received ANCA Western Region’s Humanitarian Award in recognition of its role in providing relief to survivors of the Armenian Genocide. And in 2015, President Obama recognized NEF – known at the time as the Near East Relief – for our service in his annual April 24 statement as “…a pioneer in the field of international humanitarian relief”.